Helene Johnson begins “Sonnet to a Negro in Harlem” (1927) with words that well capture the ethos of the time. “You are disdainful and magnificent – / Your perfect body and your pompous gait”, the speaker opines before closing with a declaration: “I love your laughter arrogant, and bold / You are too splendid for this city street”. Johnson is not considered a major writer of the 1920s; however, this poem reflects important tensions around cultural production and audience reception that defined the decade. It also exposes general, shifting beliefs about the political position held and the role played by people of African descent within the United States during the Harlem Renaissance.
Birthed, in part, in response to post-Reconstruction violence in the South and shifting
Citation: Bolton, Philathia. "Harlem Renaissance". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 22 September 2022 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=1379, accessed 07 December 2023.]